The Sea of Love (contra Bernadette)

Love is not just a dialectic. Love is a fourfold, a map, a sea. If constitution-discovery of the beloved forms one axis, the contradiction between lover and beloved forms the other axis. The main paradox of the latter is, of course, that every beloved is also a lover. There is a symmetry between lover and loved that goes beyond construction/discovery, and that reveals the implicitly solipsistic/narcissistic features of reducing eros to a dialectic. On the “lover” half of the fourfold of love, the lover has a definite agency, is actively reaching out into the unknown, but implicitly can only find what she was looking for. But on the beloved half of the fourfold, the lover-who-is-beloved is carried along in a sea of love. There is an irreducible degree of passivity/recklessness in this swim, and the possibility of ruin is presupposed. But even as this abnegation holds agency in abeyance, it also gives that which agency cannot: at its best, to be passively loved is to be nurtured/mentored. Something reaches down, from we know not where, and gives us what we did not even know how to ask for and asks from us what we ought not “as ends in ourselves” give: the beloved offers the unsearched-for love, which the lover recognizes as transcendent in a more meaningful sense than the simple act of discovery could imply. In short, even as the lover is 1) discovering and 2) constructing the beloved, the beloved is also 3) discovering and 4) constructing the lover. Just as the lover finds things unlooked-for in the beloved, she too recognizes herself in the gaze of the other; but it is a construction that she did not construe, a vision that she knows cannot have only originated from within. Again, this is the two-edged nature of love: the vision that she receives from the beloved—the dream of the lover—may, in fact, be a step towards the clarification of her being, or it may be a monstrous lie and represent a regression.

The implicit narcissism of a “mere” dialectic is the shortcoming of Don Quixote, of Kierkegaard’s knight of faith, of Dostoevsky’s Idiot, and of Seth Bernadette’s interpretation of Plato’s Symposium. By contrast, this is the implicit heroism of Milton’s Adam and Huckleberry Finn: each follows the beloved’s lead, not knowing that what he does for love and perceives as sin is in fact his first true act.

Thanks to my own mentor, Zeg, for elucidating many of these concepts